The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Sunday conducted searches at nine places in Jammu and Kashmir in its ongoing probe in connection with a large scale transfer of funds from Pakistan to India through the import of California Almonds (badam giri) through cross-Line of Control (LOC) trade routes, said the agency. NIA with the assistance of Jammu and Kashmir Police, Central Reserve Police Force and Indo-Tibetan Border Police conducted the searches in the Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir at the premises of the suspected LoC traders in relation to the case. During the searches, the NIA has seized various documents, digital devices and other incriminating materials from the premises of the suspects.
Import of California Almonds was facilitated via cross-LoC Trade Facilitation Centers (TFCs) located at Salamabad and Uri in Baramulla district and Chakkan-Da-Bagh in Poonch district. The NIA filed a First Information Report (FIR) on December 16, 2016, and started a probe after Union Home Ministry’s December 9, 2016 order based on input regarding terror funding taking place through cross-LOC trade routes. Considering violation of the policy of the prohibition of trade in ‘third-party foreign goods’ through this mechanism and that these funds were being used for fomenting terrorism and separatism in Jammu and Kashmir, the NIA registered the case under Section 17 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The Central government had received information that a large scale transfer of funds from Pakistan to India through the import of California Almonds via the cross-LOC Trade Facilitation Centers (TFC) located at Salamabad, Uri and Chakkan-Da-Bagh. The LoC trade was started in 2008 as a part of a confidence-building measure between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). The trade was based on a barter system and third-party origin goods were not allowed.
The NIA in 2017 questioned several government employees posted at TFC in the Uri area however officials did not divulge details on whether the sleuths have been able to find anything incriminating. The NIA believes that a percentage of profits in lieu of cross border trade is used to fund militancy in the valley. NIA investigation into the case revealed that some of the traders having excess imports were channelising the surplus profit generated to terror organizations while others are suspected to have links and connections with proscribed terrorist organizations.
It was the first time when the role of TFC employees came in terror funding case as these centres are government-built facilities that overlook trade logistics between two countries. The TFC’s located at Salamabad, Uri and Chakkan-da-Bagh are among the facilities which have come under the NIA scanner.